[2/11/22] Acting Prosecutor Appointed In Okanogan County
It took a complex series of appointments, resignations and hirings at a special meeting last Friday (Feb. 4), but Okanogan County has an acting prosecuting attorney.
She is Sue Baur, who retired in November as deputy prosecuting attorney for Wahkiakum County. She stepped into the acting role Monday to fill the spot left by the resignation of Okanogan County’s elected prosecutor Melanie Bailey, whose last day was January 27th.
As acting prosecutor, Baur will oversee the office until the county commissioners appoint an interim prosecutor. In accordance with the state constitution, since Bailey was a Republican, the Okanogan County Republican Party will submit up to three nominees to the county commissioners to fill out her term. Since the party hadn’t yet provided any names to the commissioners, the county had to come up with a solution to keep the office functioning.
It was a fairly unprecedented situation. On January 31st, Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Chris Culp appointed Chief Civil Prosecuting Attorney David Gecas and the county’s other four deputy prosecuting attorneys as deputy prosecutors, giving them the authority to serve during the hiatus.
Although the appointment of Gecas and the other four deputies lasted just five days, it was necessary to ensure the functioning of the office.
When there’s a vacancy in a partisan elected office, state law allows the county legislative authority to appoint a deputy or assistant employee as an acting official to perform all necessary duties to continue normal office operations. But that individual does have to be a county employee. That meant Baur couldn’t be appointed directly.
So, on Friday (Feb. 4), Culp administered the oath of office to Loreva Preuss, one of the county’s felony deputy prosecutors, as acting prosecutor. That gave Preuss the authority to hire Baur. Once Baur became a county employee, Preuss resigned as acting prosecutor, and the commissioners appointed Baur. After she became acting prosecutor, Baur re-hired Preuss for her old job as felony deputy.
Preuss served as acting prosecutor for about 40 minutes, most of which was spent waiting for documents to be prepared.
After Baur took the oath as acting prosecutor, she swore in all of the deputy prosecutors in the office, as is required whenever there’s a new prosecutor.
The commissioners adopted a resolution appointing Baur as acting prosecutor until an interim prosecutor has been appointed to fill the unexpired term. The person selected as interim prosecutor will have to run for the seat in the November election to remain in office.
Before her work with Wahkiakum County, Baur worked for Cowlitz County for 28 years, including 14 as elected prosecutor. Because she lives in Longview, so in addition to her salary, Baur is receiving a housing stipend.
As for an interim prosecutor, only one person had submitted interest in the job to the county’s Republican Party, but there may now be four potential candidates. The party is scheduled to meet on Feb. 19 to consider applicants.